Growing A Community

You don’t "engineer" a community. It’s not something you pull out of a box and construct with a wrench then smile and pat yourself on the back when it’s done.

Every community has it’s own unique climate and environment. Therefore you need to grow it like a garden, nurturing and tending it constantly with the same natural feelings and values that are a part of any good relationship. Ignore it though and it will wither and die.

Meaningful Ignorance

Evan Solomon’s March 1998 interview with the NODE has to be one of my favorite interviews of all time because so many issues that he speaks about resonate with me and are still very relevant today, if not more so. Take the following quote for example, from the latter part of the interview, where he speaks about valuing ignorance.

You’re the editor of a happening magazine, you’re a writer, you’re the host of a television show. How do you cope with information overload?

I value ignorance. I unplug my phone, I unplug my e-mail, I’m notoriously difficult to get a hold of, and purposely so. Because I happen to be at the centre of a lot of information, that’s my job, and so one of the ways I protect the value of my job is that I have to retain my core competency, and my core competency is trying to discern good information from bad information. My core competency is actually learning, not talking; what gives me value is knowledge and not spewing knowledge. So the less time I spend talking to people and the more time I spend listening to people, the better.

As many of us are aware of today, small is the new big. With this in mind, it’s important to realize that it’s not the quantity of things you interact with daily that matters but the quality of them. In other words, do these things actually add meaning to your life, in a way that matters to you and your passions?

Technology has made my day inefficient because it’s opened me up…..it’s like having refrigerator that I keep on a busy street so I never have food in it because everyone can access it. No, I like to keep it locked up. So what I do is I try to really keep down the amount of information and I try to think, "Well, what information is really valuable for me to know? What helps Evan and not"…..you know, most people are trying to sell you information because it helps them and they’re convincing you that their information will help you. Well, it’s really your job to figure it out. Do you really want to know if Leon’s is having a don’t-pay-a-cent event? Well you probably know it. It takes up brain space. I hate that stuff. That’s not knowledge I need in my head. It clutters me. It’s information junk. I realize that being ignorant of certain information is more valuable to me because it allows me to value the information that I really need. I know what I need.

It seems like I see so many people out there searching for something to make them feel truly complete, yet it is often the searching through all of this "noise" that makes them feel so disconnected. Strangely enough if they just block out that noise and stop searching, that’s when they’ll realize that what they are searching for is already within them. They just need to stop, tune into themselves, and listen long enough to hear it.

William Gibson talks about going on media fasts, which is no information for five days, just going away — no phone, no TV, no radio, just your own stuff. People. It’s really weird (laughs). Try it. Try to stop watching television, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, and go on an information fast. Do you know what happens to you? It’s like when you go away on a holiday and you’re out of touch: you relax. And you find out there are other things that are inside of you that are quite important. I think more and more people are going to go like they lose weight — they’ll go lose knowledge.

Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and disconnected, avoid the need to go frantically looking for something to add to your life that will make it better. Instead unplug yourself completely to discover what’s already within you that makes you truly complete (as well as unique).

Recharging At Adaptive Path

Adaptive Path is looking for an experienced visual designer. What caught my eye though is their focus on promoting a "live/work balance" within their company.

Adaptive Path is the people who work here. We’ve created a work environment that respects the individual—their needs, dreams and pipe dreams. We promote a live/work balance including five weeks of vacation per year.

Holy crap! Five weeks of vacation a year! Now that is my kind of work environment! They obviously recognize the importance of having time to recharge your batteries after working hard. Now if I was only a visual designer and I actually lived in San Francisco.  Hehe!  🙂

Actually when I’ve been offered jobs with companies in the past, I’d often see if I could get more weeks of vacation each year (like two or three instead of just one) in exchange for a reduced salary. I’d rather be happy, rested, and moderately well paid instead of exhausted and wealthy. In other words, I’d rather work to live instead of living to work.

Extend Yourself

While reading some blogs today, I was reminded of a great little story from the book Zen In The Martial Arts. The short story that I remembered in particular was centered around Joe Hyams, the author of the book, back when he was initially being taught by Ed Parker many years ago. At the time, Joe wasn’t that experienced or knowledgeable, so to make up for it he tried using “deceptive, tricky moves” but they were easily countered. After the match, Joe’s frustration was readily apparent and Ed picked up on it, asking him what was wrong.

“Why are you so upset?” he asked.

“Because I couldn’t score.”

Parker got up from behind the desk and with a piece of chalk drew a line on the floor about five feet long.

“How can you make this line shorter?” he asked.

I studied the line and gave him several answers, including cutting the line in many pieces.

He shook his head and drew a second line, longer than the first. “Now how does the first line look?”

“Shorter,” I said.

Parker nodded. “It is always better to improve and strengthen your own line or knowledge than to try and cut your opponent’s line.” He accompanied me to the door and added, “Think about what I have just said.”

And just one more quick thing to note in relation to this. Just because you may perceive yourself to be better than your opponent, never underestimate them. Respect them. Skillful opponents will usually use their disadvantages to their advantage (i.e. smaller means more agile), often circumventing their opponents instead of striking at them directly. Thus instead of dancing to your rhythm, they’ll dance to their own.

Avoid Complexity, Think Simply

Guy Kawasaki interviews Chip and Dan Heath about their book Made To Stick.

And that brings us to the villain of our book: The Curse of Knowledge. Lots of research in economics and psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators. Think of a lawyer who can’t give you a straight, comprehensible answer to a legal question. His vast knowledge and experience renders him unable to fathom how little you know. So when he talks to you, he talks in abstractions that you can’t follow. And we’re all like the lawyer in our own domain of expertise.

So very true! And actually in a discussion with someone last night, I realized I may have been doing this very same thing. It’s almost as though I have this vision in my head of what I want to achieve and since I haven’t achieved it yet, I may be overlaying complexity when describing my vision so that it appears more complex to others than it really may be. Thus this gives me an "excuse" for not achieving my vision because it makes it look like it is a very difficult and complex one to achieve. Yet in reality, it may not be that difficult at all, it’s just that I haven’t looked at the problem from the right angle or perspective.

I mean how many times have we all struggled with a problem over and over again in frustration, only to finally solve it and slap our foreheads saying "Doh! It’s so simple." Again, we just weren’t looking at the problem from the right point of view. Instead of opening our minds and looking at things from a different perspective, we stayed focused on a particular approach to the problem and continually hit our heads against the wall. At the point of giving up though, when we finally let go of all expectations, that is usually when we finally see the problem from a different viewpoint and achieve our eureka moment.

It’s funny. I’ve always said if you want to communicate an idea clearly, it should be simple enough for a child to understand. Well it looks like I need to start following my own advice in this regards.  🙂